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Environmental Science Major Interns Under YCP Alumnus at West Shore Wildlife Center

Jen Campbell holding an owl.

Written by: Nathan Leakway '24

Jen Campbell ’24 knew from a young age that she wanted to pursue a career that would allow her to help wildlife. During her Fall 2023 semester, an internship at West Shore Wildlife Center afforded her that opportunity.

The West Shore Wildlife Center (WSWC) was founded in 2019 by YCP graduate Emily Garrigan ‘17, who recognized a need for wildlife rehabilitation centers in Pennsylvania. She initially opened the Center with a focus on caring for Eastern Cottontails, working on her own out of the basement of her home in Etters, PA. Since then, Garrigan has built a team of professionals and volunteers, including Jen, who now care for a wide variety of animals native to Pennsylvania.

“The Center rehabilitates injured, sick, or orphaned animals until they are ready to be released back into the wild,” says Jen. The animals are typically brought in by community members who find animals that have been hit by cars, attacked by pets, or have had their habitats destroyed.

Jen grew up in Somers, NY, right up the road from a 777-acre farm where she attended camps and eventually became employed. “The farm and my love for the outdoors were two huge contributors to my path of becoming an Environmental Science major,” she says. “I find the wild world to be fascinating.”

Initially, it was Jen’s success on the lacrosse field that led her to consider York College, but during the recruitment process, she was impressed by the College’s science departments. “The science departments at York seemed super invested in their students’ success,” she says. “I loved the fact that at York class sizes weren’t overwhelmingly large, and the lab resources are awesome.” During her sophomore year, Jen presented research pertaining to water quality in the state of Pennsylvania to YCP professors and administrators and received a monetary reward for her work.

A 2020 article about Emily Garrigan brought the WSWC to Jen’s attention. “I immediately reached out to her and expressed my interest in what she does,” says Jen. That began a conversation that eventually led to her landing an internship at the Center during her senior year.

Alongside Garrigan, the Center’s Executive Director, Jen worked closely with the animal patients that were brought to WSWC for care, work that consisted of feeding infant and adult patients, cleaning enclosures, performing health examinations, and administering medications. She worked closely with a variety of animals, including squirrels, turtles, snakes, and a number of bird species like hawks and owls.

“Garrigan was an amazing mentor,” says Jen. “She is passionate and motivated and is a great teacher. She turned into an aspirational role model for me.” She also worked closely with WSWC’s growing staff of professionals and volunteers. “The people at West Shore Wildlife Center are extraordinary people,” she says. “I loved working with them.”

Though she does not yet have concrete post-graduation plans, Jen has discovered that the work she has done at the WSWC is in line with what she is looking for in a career.

“Working there has definitely confirmed that animals are my passion,” she says. “Places like WSWC are essential to protecting biodiversity levels in local communities. Educating the wider community on the environment is vital because the health of the environment is fully dependent on us, and education is a great stepping stone to providing people with the motivation to take action.”

Jen hopes to encourage other Environmental Science majors to pursue their passions. “If you are someone who loves hands-on work, find an internship like mine where every day is something different and inspiring,” she says. “I think a lot of what goes into being interested in environmental science is having tons of passion, curiosity, and motivations, so when looking into getting an internship, narrow down what you truly feel passionate about and chase that.”

Jen is hoping to stay involved at WSWC for as long as she remains in York County. “I am working to organize my next semester’s schedule of school and lacrosse, and if there are any holes in my weeks, I would love to fill them with volunteering at WSWC,” she says.

Jen’s desire to stay involved is motivated partly by the Center’s growing need for community support. This past fall, the Center received a letter from the township where it is located saying that, due to zoning regulations, it must either change locations or close its doors. To support the move, WSWC has started the Growing Home Campaign. “Please look into the campaign and consider supporting the move,” says Jen. “It would mean the world to me, Emily Garrigan, and all the critters that need WSWC in order to survive.”